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Monday, November 21, 2011

Pre-Workout's vs. Food. Which One Is Better?

I tricked myself. Okay … not so much trick, but tested. I took a much needed quick little weekend vacation to New Orleans. I took my protein, carbs and supplements with the INTENT on keeping with my schedule … but I will admit, I DID NOT stick with it. Walking around The French Quarter toting a cooler or fanny pack did not go well with my idea of a relaxing time, let alone lug my camera backpack around. So, I decided to forgo the food cart for the camera in hopes I could get some decent food while walking the streets of NOLA (that’s short for New Orleans for you non-NOLA visitors).

As Saturday progressed, I could feel my blood sugar getting really low as the gaps between meals were getting longer and longer, and like any athlete who lives by a 6 to 7 meal per day plan, miss a meal … or two and well, cranky is an understatement. I felt like some meth junkie going through withdrawals. Even though people were talking to me, every scent of something cooking made my mouth salivate and I would envision myself eating it. The mere vision of food in front me with my fork diving in was truly a moment of what some call, “Food Porn”. Everything I smelled in The French Quarter (and there is the smell of amazing food oozing out of every doorway and alleyway in that city) sparked a food fantasy. It was getting a tad ridiculous, but uncontrollable. Let me clarify that my vision and fantasy wasn't of chocolate truffles, biegnets or of any other decadent culinary creation; quite the opposite. I just wanted protein and potatoes or rice. Period. 

As the gaps between meals kept getting longer, people’s words began to drown out and I would get tunnel vision and get ancy for sheer sustenance. I would put my hands in my pockets, hold them then put them back in the pockets again over a thousand times to contain myself, just hoping I would get food … soon. Once inside the restaurant, I did manage to NOT eat everything on my plate in one bite or from the plates of those around me (at other tables, though I did glare at what they were eating like a starving bear just out of hibernation.). I kept a calm demeanor, but it was tough. I just smiled and said, “No, I’m fine.” as I glared at their arms and my mind turned it into a Turkey leg or chicken breast.

However, to be a good sport, I never let on to anyone how truly hungry I was, but there was one point where I truly felt as if I was about to pass out. So I just leaned up against a wall, tried to breath deep and remain calm. (I laugh now as I read this. However, I have a full belly of protein, carbs and essential fat as I sip from a heaping tall glass of water.)

Food. A necessity. Period.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling out of it. I had enjoyed ONE adult beverage during the afternoon Saturday, but tanked the water like a thirsty Camel when I had the chance. Needless to say, it’s become a reality that I just don’t like how drinking makes me feel … just plain ICK! Now, I still like my wine, don’t get me wrong, but maybe it was the lack of food, the walking 500 miles around New Orleans, or the killer leg workout I had on Thursday … but needless to say, “drinking” was not on my agenda for this trip and that one drink really didn’t make me feel very clean inside. I felt like my body was trying to work via a clogged, dirty filter.

Okay, so you’re probably thinking, “OK MD, get to the point. How did you ‘test’ yourself?”

Well, I had a hard workout planned for today, Monday. Chest and biceps. My fun groups. However, I wanted to test the energy effects and capacity of pre-workout supplements. The ONLY one I have is my Pre-Surge by AEN, possibly the cleanest, most level pre-workout & N.O. I've ever had without the weird typical side effects from the other brands like crawling skin, the shakes and a bad crash after they wear off. In the previous weeks it has been the best performing Pre-W for me, period. So this test was Not to test AEN specifically, but a pre-workout in general to see just what kind of “boost” it would offer when depleted of calories and water. I may try other products as well ... if I want to jeopardize another workout day, but I may have to be coerced heavily to do so. Just saying.

Here’s what I ate on Sunday:

Ø      Meal 1, 9:30am – 40gr Protein Shake, 40gr carb (corn tortillas)
Ø      Meal 2, noon – 18gr protein, egg whites, 20gr carb, potatoes
Ø      Meal 3, 4:30pm – 7oz chicken breast, 30gr bread
Ø      Meal 4, 8:00pm – 7oz Turkey breast, 100gr bread, potatoes & veggies, 1 piece of cake.
On a side note …. JUDGE FREE ZONE here people! Come on now! Haha

My Monday food intake:

Ø      Meal 1, 9:00am – 40gr Protein Shake, 40gr carb, potatoes
Ø      Meal 2, Noon – 6gr Chicken breast, 30gr carb, corn tortillas

Workout at 3:30 – had my pre-workout drink.

I walked into the gym feeling a tad lethargic. Basically I was dragging my butt. My head was feeling foggy, and this seems to be my body’s signal that I haven’t eaten enough. Having 3.5 hours since my last SMALL meal, my pre-workout was giving me a bit of a internal shock boost to get me going, but just after my 4 sets of warm-up on chest, I was feeling depleted already. I had great focus on the workout, but just couldn’t really engage the muscles like I have before.

My heart rate was elevated, I began to sweat profusely from the get go and I was out of breath very, very easily. If you would have seen me after my warm-up you would have thought I had been in there all day from the amount of sweat that was dripping off of me.

I somehow managed to muster the gumption to finish chest, but not sure how. OH WAIT … yes I do. “I DECIDE”! That’s how! ZING! But now it was onto biceps.

Now, biceps is one of my favorite groups to workout because you can watch them flex the entire time, contract, blow up and you feel it so well. Just a cool group to work. But within the first few reps of the warm-up before I started my Spider Curls, I was running out of steam quick. After my Spider Curls and standing iso-curls, I had nothing left to finish Hammer Curls, EZ-Bar Curls and Barbell Curls. Absolutely nothing. I was on the verge of going anaerobic in my heart rate and I just couldn’t catch my breath.

I never did feel a pump. I wasn’t vascular at all, meaning I was flat the entire time. My “buzz” from the pre-workout fell off, at least it seemed, within 15 minutes. Then again, probably nothing couldn’t helped my depleted body get a super-charged, scream induced workout other than being properly fueled.

Afterwards, I sat in the car and sipped on my recovery drink of 50gr of whey protein, my BSN AMINO-X, L-Glutamine and 50gr of pure carbs. Each sip was making me feel a bit better, but as I reflected on the lack of energy I had the epiphany … no Pre-Workout can take the place of OR get you through a workout without first being properly fueled with solid and sound nutrition.

My side-effects of shortness of breath, elevated heart rate and excessive sweating are side effects I recall happening during my training days as a triathlete when I wasn’t properly recovered or refueled from a previous days workout.

The testament is true, what you eat today provides you with the energy for tomorrow, and now I know it is true for me, but with one added element … a pre-workout is to aid and assist your body’s already existing fuel source, food, in helping your body reach it’s fullest potential during your workout … NOT be the only catalyst of energy. No energy booster beverage or pill can help your body once it is depleted of fuel. They end up becoming short bursts of power that quickly diminish like trying to start your engine with a Carburetor Cleaner directly when the problem is that your tank is empty. Your engine will crank, even rev a second or two, then quickly die off.

I think too much hype is given to any one supplement, especially the countless barrage of pre-workout supplements these days as the ads all seem to promise to give you the MOST INSANE PUMP, ENERGY OF A RAGING BEAST, BEST WORKOUT EVER if you take their product, eluding that it’s their product alone that would provide that.

NOT! Not even close.

BUT … who am I to judge. I’m just an average guy throwin’ some weight around in the gym.

~ FINDINGS Of My Test ~

Pre-Workout supplement did not push my body to a new limit. My focus was laser sharp, but my muscles just didn’t have the deep energy to push or perform with the weight or reps I should have been doing.

My Pre-Workout DOES work however when I am properly fueled. I can get really deep in muscle engagement in all groups and I am very vascular when I have enough carbs AND water flowing through my system.


I will eat the calories required by my body that I have learned work through food first. I will drink my gallon of water a day, minimum, to keep my cells hydrated. I will NOT depend on my supplements for primary energy.

LESSON . . .

Supplements are just that … to SUPPLEMENT your diet to add to what you are not getting enough of through regular food. They aren’t called PRIMARIES for a reason. 

Have I mentioned how this bodybuilding this is hard as hell??? Uhhhh, well, yeah ... IT IS!

~ MD

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Can Barely Walk

Needless to say, my goal of shocking my legs with a new workout did the trick. It is now Tuesday. My leg workout was Saturday. I am still walking funny and have a hard time getting up from a seated position without wincing a bit and holding my breath.

WHAT did I do? I worked a complete compound movement called the Leg Press pushing high rep for 20 sets with only 45 seconds of rest between sets. I did a pyramid in weight warming up slowly being very careful to watch my form all the way through and NOT locking my knees when I pushed out as to avoid injuring my joint. As the weight increased each set, maintaining good form is key and not shorting myself by using momentum, but my muscle rather, to do the movement from start to finish. At the end I completed 3 warm-down sets to slowly allow my muscles to ease back down in blood volume and reduce the lactic acid build up.

Here is a video highlight of my leg workout! I PASS OUT after one of the sets! It's crazy, but thankfully the rack had already been secured!

My energy for the leg workout was good as I had increased my carb intake by 100 grams on Friday (475 total) and the morning of, knowing full well what I was about to do. This type of workout using your largest muscle group puts you into an anaerobic state and consumes a great deal of calories. In all of my workouts I maintain the 45 second rest between sets to keep the intensity high but also to keep my workouts short as I don’t want to spend hours in the gym. Yes, there are others that prefer to rest several minutes between sets, but this is working for me quite well and it’s keeping my heart in good condition.

The critical part of every workout I do, every set, is I take my reps to absolute failure. I say this a lot, but it has been the important element to seeing positive growth in size and strength. While maintaining proper form, I do the movement until I cannot complete another positive rep. No positive push at all. I will attempt a ½ rep in the end just to make sure I have taken my muscle to that failure point. It is this stimuli that triggers your body to say, “OH! He can’t do more unless we build more!” and thus, the body while resting, adds more muscle tissue to handle the load next time.

Typically my workouts consist of a warm-up of 2 to 3 sets then 4 working sets per movement pushing 8 to 10 reps per set. But again, to failure. The goal on Saturday was merely to prepare my body for a change. Doing this type of shock & awe for a muscle group ever 6 to 8 weeks alleviates a plateau in performance in strength and/or size. Some people do the 100 Rep workout while others might do a crossfit day … either way … changing it all up is the point.

I did change my pre-workout mix a bit. I had been taking 40grams of whey protein (ISOFLEX by Allmax) along with my Athletic Edge Nutrition Pre-Surge AND Creatine RN, but I have since removed the protein. I have noticed a quicker absorbtion and I don’t feel as bloated. BUT … critical in my post-workout is 50grams of ISOFlex, 10gr of BCAA’s and 6gr of L-Glutamine along with a cup of either white potatoes or rice for the simple carb reload. I consume this IMMEDIATELY after my workout. I hadn’t been including the carb source, but since, I have noticed a better feeling physically within the hour after a workout, and my performance next session is much better. I feel I am able to dig deep through each rep.

People have been asking what supplements I am taking, so I thought I would take a photo of everything and let you see. I will begin breaking down each one to explain why I am taking it as the weeks progress. However, to give you a simple breakdown:

Protein:             ISOFLEX Whey
BCAA’s:          BSN AminoX (recovery)
                        ON AminoEnergy (energy, instead of coffee)
Creatine:           CTD Kre-Alkalyn (buffered creatine)
Vitamin:            CTD Multi-Elite (whole food multi-vitamin – better than synthetic)
Fats:                 CTD Omegathins (fatty acids for joint & heart health)
L-Glutamine:     Allmax 6gr per serving (muscle recovery)
Digestion:         Super Enzymes (increase food digestion / absorbtion)
Metabolism:      Phenorex (thermogenic fat burner as opposed to a Cortisol blocker)
Pre-Workout:   Athletic Edge Nutrition Pre-Surge, Creatine RN blend
Recovery:         Athletic Edge Nutrition IntraXCell

It might seem like a lot of different supplements to take in one day, but I don’t take all of these everyday. They are time specific and taken on workout / non-workout days. Each one has a specific purpose, but bottom line these are supplements, to help supplement what I may not be getting enough of from regular foods. My diet is the key source for nutrients, protein, BCAA’s etc. to help my body recover and build during this strenuous workout program.

All in all, I feel great. My joints do not hurt like they have in times past, I feel much stronger and like my body is working with me instead of against me overall. This is a milestone in and of itself.

My food intake has stabilized and I am feeling like I am getting everything I need each day. Even cutting back my carbs to 2 grams per pound of weight from 2.5 grams was a significant change and one that I don’t feel sick of eating nor “carb drunk” at all. I literally felt drunk. I was retaining water and I felt very tired throughout the day. Now, cutting back … I am back on track! I guess my body just can’t handle that many baskets of chips each meal! Haha!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Uncovering The Emotional Mystery of Contest Prep

Well, here we are drawing to a close of the 2011 figure/fitness/bikini/bodybuilding contest season. Many highs and lows. Good memories and maybe a few, not so much. But all in all, every single competitor who walked across the multitude of stages across the globe to showcase the physiques they have worked so hard for did it all for one reason. They committed themselves to the journey when they said, "I DECIDE"!

This past season saw a dramatic increase in new competitors as the sport is gaining popularity offering the "average joe" a competitive platform and format for the gym-go'er and gym-rat of today to showcase their physique. A new goal to reach for. A new outlet of accomplishment.

Well, as so many new athletes sign up for competitions, they are a slew of personal trainers and nutritionists rising in number just as fat. Yet, as I hear the stories from more and more newbies into the sport, the one common thing I hear them talk about is the behavioral changes they experienced, emotional highs and lows, uncontrollable lack of focus, lack of drive and motivation, easily distracted, inability to manage even the simplest of tasks throughout the day, short tempers, irritability, etc ... but all of these behaviors are side effects of 4 factors necessary during show prep.

Finally somebody is willing to talk about it! Finally somebody takes the quiet whispers of those wondering, "Am I the only one feeling this way?" or, "Why am I not acting like myself?" and explains why!

For the rookie having competed their first show to the aspiring competitor looking at 2012 as their season to give it their best shot, I have some critical information to unveil to you about what you experienced or WILL BE experiencing, and why during your show-prep period you may act like a crazy-you that you can't seem to control.

I merely want people to understand that what they experienced or will experience, is perfectly normal, everyone goes through it, and how to help those around you know what to expect and how they can help you in 2012.

Now, about ME! My workouts this past week have been INSANE! Thanks largely in part to my new Pre-Workout / N.O. from AEN. It has been smooth, no jitters and sustains my crazy, razor sharp focus through my very intense, screaming and grinding workouts. I will go into more depth about my workouts this week, later today, and explain the results of my adjustment to my carbohydrate intake as well and how I'm feeling! Little by little I am seeing positive growth and strength. Crazy-cool this thing called Bodybuilding!


~ Michael-David
founder/creator, "I DECIDE"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Making Adjustments

Well, as I said from the beginning, bodybuilding is a continual lab of trial and error. That being said, I was taking in way too many carbohydrates for my body. Sadly I have been blessed with a naturally slow metabolism. Explains why I was the FAT kid growing up. Not to get on a pitty party, my body just doesn't processes and metabolize sugar efficiently, so by eating too much, it will get stored as fat. This is the case with me in just 10 days. 

By consuming 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight, I was consuming all of that within the first 4 of my 6 meals per day. I had the right amount of energy during my workouts and my body felt fuller, but I was eating too much as I noticed how I was getting softer in the abdomen and I lost my vasularity in my arms. So, I am cutting back to 2 grams of carbs per pound to see what that adjustment does physically and if that will effect my performance in the gym.

My workouts this past week have been intense ... AS ALWAYS! Yesterday however, I had a battle of the mind. I wasn't feeling totally in it. I felt a bit lethargic honestly. I convinced myself my body needed one more day of rest ... so I thought. But as I sat there at my desk about to dive into some work, I looked down and saw my "I DECIDE" wristband.

I froze.

My mind went blank.

I laughed then felt this rush of adrenaline rush through my body. "Well, let's do this!" I said out loud to myself. So I got everything together. I drank my Athletic Edge Nutrition PreSurge and hit the weights ... and I hit them hard. Here is what I did:

Immediately following my workout I drank 40gr of my 90% pure, micronized whey protein, BCAA's and L-Glutamine with 16oz of water to immediately give my body the essential supplements my body needed following this grueling workout.

You may look at the weight and rep count and think, "Man, that's not much!" BUT, I perform each rep slow, peak with a squeeze-hold then follow with a precise negative. This technique derives from the H.I.T. approach developed by Arthur Jones and later by bodybuilder Mike Mentzer that focuses on performing slow, precises movements to maximize peak failure in a timed set. The point in anything set you do however to stimulate growth in your muscle group is to reach absolute failure, then finish with a static hold. Minimal sets necessary but absolute failure required for it to work.

I am liking the feel of a 4-2 split each week. That means working out my groups for 4 days then taking 2 days off to rest completely. That is giving each group a full 6 days of rest before I hit them hard again. I will continue to monitor my growth results and bodyfat per week to see what I need to change. I am still focusing on heavier weight, low rep focus for the next couple of weeks. I will then take a week and do nothing but volume, high-rep sets of 30 to 40 reps per set.

I am getting my rest each night with sometimes a 20 minute power nap during lunch if I feel I need it. There have been a couple of nights I was up past midnight and I sure felt the fatigue in the day. My appetite was off and I just felt like I was in a fog.

Amazing how all of these elements work so closely together and must be monitored to help my body grow. So it's important I watch all of them, take notes and see what could be affecting my performance. I honestly never thought bodybuilding would be such a science. AMAZING!

Remember, "There is no excuse because ... I DECIDE."

~ MD                  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And So, It Begins.

Well, away we go. My 12 month journey to compete as a bodybuilder. I will admit, I am nervous. Who wouldn’t be, but … that has never stopped me before. (famous last words, “Mom, watch this!”)

I have been diving head first into research the past couple of months looking at the proper nutritional aspect as a bodybuilder. I have come to one conclusion … it’s not an exact, guaranteed science. It’s a daily regime of trial and error reading and watching my body. Most importantly in this equation is my nutrition. As it’s commonly said, if you’re not eating properly for working out, don’t bother going to the gym. Thus, after much research, I will be eating a lot more carbohydrates than I had expected as compared to a low-carb plan I was on for a few weeks to help shred some unwanted bodyfat (thanks to my friend and nutrional guru Vanessa Sifontes for setting me straight.)

The MOST important understanding to my growth is knowing that REST, Hydration & Nutrition are the key ingredients to my body’s transformation. Keeping those in line, my body will grow after my strenuous training sessions. Besides, a body doesn’t get stronger or bigger IN the gym as most people think. On the contrary. The body does so only while resting, but without the building blocks from food and supplements, the body can build nothing.

The breakdown I am going to follow for the first few weeks to help fuel my body for energy and growth will be a ratio of 2 / 2.5 / .5.

Protein : 2 grams per pound of Lean Body Mass
Carb:    2.5 grams per pound of LBM
Fat: .5 grams per pound of LBM

Now as like anyone in Texas, I love eating at TexMex restaurants and I will dive into a basket of chips, salsa and queso like there is no tomorrow. Within a few minutes I can consume almost 1,500 calories in chips alone BEFORE my meal arrives, which is typically chicken fajitas. So, some habits MUST change, but I will have to change my mindset and accept that carbs are good and highly necessary. Good carbs that is. I will be eating carbohydrates that are low on the Glycemic Index to alleviate a spike in my insulin and keep my blood sugar regulated like sweet potatoes, red potatoes, natural oatmeal and rice.

I will be following a 7 meal per day plan where the first 5 meals I will have all of my carbs while the last two will be protein and veggies. Green leafy stuff to keep everything moving, if you know what I mean. Following a high protein diet, the digestive system will need some help processing all of that and at 38, I will do all I can to continue being a “regular guy”! lol  So I’m adding in natural enzymes plus a lot of natural fiber and vegetables to keep my intestines healthy as I consume the quantity of food AND protein.

You might be asking, “Okay MD, what will your workouts be like?” Well, as my workout partners can attest, they are intense. I scream. Yell. Sweat buckets upon buckets. I push hard every set and rep. That’s the first mindset to have. Push beyond my limits. I know no other way. LoL But sadly, that makes me, THAT guy in the gym. Hahaha Oh well! There could be worse things right? Thankfully, The Asylum Gym in Kingwood, Texas ( provides a hardcore environment to throw some serious iron around and not disturb the Mamby-Pamby on-lookers from their book reading and talking in the gym. haha :)

For my my workouts however, I am designing  a 4 Day On, Two Day Off training schedule as follows for the next 4 weeks.

Day 1: Chest / Biceps / Calves
Day 2: Back / Triceps
Day 3: Shoulders / Traps
Day 4: Legs / Calves

I have been doing a schedule that was every other day. Each body part had 6 days of rest before hitting them again, which is the same with my 4/2 program. I felt mentally strong and looked forward to each training day. But now,  I am going to mix it up a bit. For those that know me, I have been following the H.I.T. training approach for about 12 to16 weeks. Maintaining a high tempo and intensity of only 45 seconds rest between sets, I will be mixing it up with H.I.T. sets, volume and high weight / low rep variations for all muscle groups. Always keeping the muscles in shock so they are forced to adapt and get bigger to handle the load I will be adding.

But … the key to muscle growth is once I am warmed up, every working set will be to ABSOLUTE FAILURE. What is A.F.?? It’s where you cannot do one more clean, CONTROLLED positive rep. This is where I see so many get injured or DO NOT see improvement. They do the same thing over and over, or use momentum to do the rep. Momentum triggers other muscle groups to activate. NOT Ideal! I will be focusing hard on using proper form and peaking out each movement for each muscle. This has worked thus far, now it’s time to change movement variations and rep style.

At 38 years old, and having been an edurance athlete since the age of 11, this will be a new challenge for me. I have been lifting weights regularly for the past 2.5 years, but with no definitive goal. Slowly getting stronger, I focused on more building about 6 months ago. When I got back in the gym I weighed about 202 and an estimated 30% bodyfat. I didn’t really change my diet, just worked out which got me up to 216 pounds by May of this year. During my 14 days in Nigeria on a photojournalism trip, I lost 19 pounds. I then got sick and lost another 10 pounds. Yeah, that’s a loss of 29 pounds in a month, but not recommended. That’s when I got with my dear friend and NPC Figure Competitor, Vanessa Sifontes to create a nutrition plan to help me get back on track. At the start I measured about 21% bodyfat and within about 12 weeks I dropped to 10.65%. I did no cardio. I just followed the H.I.T. training program and her meal plan. AMAZING!

Now, at 191 pounds and 11.17%, my Lean Body Mass weighs 169.67 pounds. I have much work to go. However, what it odd about my body is that I don’t look like a shredded 11% physique compared to other guys. Even as a triathlete when I was down to 5-6%, my 6-pack was barely visible. My legs were vascular like crazy, but still looked soft. So I am curious to see how my body changes after my competition, as I am told by many that post-competition, my body will change how it replenishes fat.

The one thing that is certain is there is no exact formula to how a body will build. There is no perfect workout, diet or supplement regime that is a guarantee. It’s a science of trial and error, listening and watching my body and making adjustments as I go.

All in all, I just hope that my journey to the stage will be informative, entertaining, educational and most of all … motivating. I’m an average guy. The Jo-Shmo gym go’er. But, with a tenacious determination to hit the stage as a bodybuilder in 12 months, I want to inspire other guys out there, no matter their physical condition, that they can get up out of their Lay-Z-Boy and get fit. Maybe not rock a itty bitty Speedo on stage, but … get fit! Haha

Onward and upward I go. This will be fun.

“My glory comes not from what others may say, but by my pursuit each and every day. Because I know that within my own mind … I DECIDE.”

~ MD